Before Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards, the Orioles were joined in the clubhouse by kids from the Maryland Table Tennis Center for an exhibition -- and then some competition.
Under the guidance of USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges, four of the nation’s top juniors played in front of the Orioles before some of the players squared off against them.
“They’re having a great time,” Hodges said. “They were really nervous the first 10 minutes. Now they’re relaxed."
Shortstop J.J. Hardy is known throughout baseball as one of the top table tennis players, and he and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson went to Gaithersburg to visit the center earlier this year. They had a lesson with Hodges. Then, they competed against some of the members, and they lost.
On Wednesday, Anderson and players including right-handers Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter, catcher Taylor Teagarden and right fielder Nick Markakis faced off with the players from the center, including Derek Nie, the 2012 U.S. Open 11-and-under singles champion. The Orioles had mixed results against their competition. The rest of the Orioles stood around the room and watched.
Manager Buck Showalter talked about the visit later Wednesday, sating that most teams try to keep the atmosphere in the clubhouse loose, and this was another way of doing so.
“I think everybody does,” Showalter said. “Everything’s so serious. There’s so much during the game and what have you, before and after. Nobody’s got a corner on it. Nobody’s got a corner on competition. Not just the American League East is good, they’re all good. Every clubhouse has something like that. I’ve had it like that for years. It’s a players clubhouse. It’s not mine. It’s a place I want them to feel they want to come to.”
** In his first start since striking out 14 batters, Low-A Delmarva right-hander Parker Bridwell struck out seven in six innings Wednesday and allowed two runs on six hits in a no-decision.
** Showalter met with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to discuss September call-ups. Showalter said that players not currently on the 40-man roster are a possibility.
** The Orioles are mailing out invoices for playoff tickets to season-ticket holders Friday.
Rays: Jennings 8, Zobrist 4, Longoria 5, Myers DH, Escobar 6, Rodriguez 3, Bourgeois 9, Lobaton 2, Fuld 7; Hellickson 1.
Orioles: McLouth 7, Machado 5, Davis 3, Jones 8, Wieters 2, Markakis 9, Hardy 6, Roberts 4, Pearce DH; Chen 1.